School of Dentistry Receives NC-HCAP Leadership Award

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry recently received the North Carolina Health Careers Access Program’s (NC-HCAP) 2006 Leadership Award, recognizing the school’s efforts to recruit, admit, retain and graduate underrepresented minority students.

Dean John N. Williams accepted the award on behalf of the school. The award presentation took place July 14 at the closing ceremony for the NC-HCAP’s Science Enrichment Preparation (SEP) Program, an event that was held at UNC-Chapel Hill’s George Watts Hill Alumni Center. Other school officials in attendance were Tom Luten, director of student services and clinical assistant professor of dental ecology; Dr. Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque, associate professor of dental ecology; and Dr. Sylvia Frazier-Bowers, assistant professor of orthodontics.

Dr. F. Vincent Allison III, a 1987 graduate of the School of Dentistry, gave the keynote address.

The NC-HCAP, based at UNC-Chapel Hill, is an inter-institutional program of the University of North Carolina system designed to improve the overall health of North Carolinians by increasing the number of underrepresented minority students who successfully pursue health-related careers.

Close to 800 students have completed the SEP Program since its beginning in 1979; of that number, 84 percent of these students are either practicing in a health-care field, enrolled in health professions training programs or are completing undergraduate prerequisites for these programs.

The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry leads the nation’s majority dental schools in the enrollment of underrepresented dental students. Minority students make up 20 percent of the school’s student body, and 2006 school statistics show 65 African-American, Latino and American Indian dental students enrolled.

Dr. Carolyn M. Mayo, executive director of the NC-HCAP, said the program was pleased to publicly recognize the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry’s effective strategies in increasing underrepresented minorities in general dentistry and graduate dental specialty areas.

“There appears to be a steady march toward minority population parity on the part of the dental school,” she added. “They have been equally assertive in reviewing and modifying the dental school’s curriculum to incorporate concepts of cultural awareness, sensitivity and application of same into the daily clinical education and training of their students.”

The North Carolina Health Careers Access Program is making a positive difference in the lives of students in North Carolina and in the provision of health care to the state’s population, said School of Dentistry Dean John N. Williams.

“It brings me great satisfaction to see that many of the talented students we support together are going on to apply to the UNC-Chapel Hill schools of dentistry and medicine or other health professional schools,” he said. “School of Dentistry faculty and staff members have made a sincere commitment to increasing health career opportunities for underrepresented minorities in our state, and this good work will continue. We deeply value our partnership with the North Carolina Health Careers Access Program and are honored to receive the 2006 Leadership Award.”

The NC-HCAP extended special recognition to the following School of Dentistry faculty and staff members for their “tireless personal and financial support” of the SEP Program, mainly through the school’s Robert Wood Johnson Dental Pipeline Project:

  • Dean John N. Williams and Dr. John Stamm, former dean of the school and now professor of dental ecology, “for being visionary leaders in promoting a school climate of educational excellence and inclusiveness for all of the people of North Carolina”;
  • Tom Luten, “for his outstanding student recruitment and retention efforts”;
  • Dr. Ron Strauss, principal investigator, and Dr. Janet Southerland, co-principal investigator, of the Robert Wood Johnson Dental Pipeline Project, “who continue to provide exceptional leadership and guidance to the RWJ initiative”; and
  • Faculty and staff affiliated with the RWJ grant team.

In 2002, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry received a five-year, $1.3 million grant as a part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pipeline, Profession & Practice: Community-Based Dental Education Initiative. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative now involves 15 dental schools nationwide.

The UNC-Chapel Hill project – titled UNC Dentistry in Service to Communities: Education, Service and Workforce Development – has made changes in clinical education at community sites in underserved settings; in the School of Dentistry’s curriculum in culture, communication and social science; and in minority and disadvantaged student recruitment. During this period, funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has allowed UNC-Chapel Hill to provide laptop computers to a selected group of disadvantaged students entering dental school.

The NC-HCAP’s Leadership Award is given to individuals or organizations that have proactively sought out and implemented strategies to increase underrepresented minorities in a health sciences discipline and/or who have worked in partnership with NC-HCAP to support its mission and activities.